Or at least that is how Morton Smith, who was a professor of ancient history at Columbia University, would have had it. Professor Smith had a lot of
ideas about the historical Jesus, but I have always been most interested in his ideas concerning the tattoos.
I have a subject that has never been touched upon in these forums, and I was wondering if you would like to check it out with me?
Please know in advance that I am no authority on Morton Smith
and I have barely scratched the
surface of his book, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?
, upon which this thread is based. I have primarily read of his ideas referred
to in other books or while reading on the web.
I would like to get right down to it. Here, in part, is Morton Smith's sketch of whom he had considered to have been the historical Jesus Christ from
Smith's book, Jesus the Magician
The son of a soldier named Panthera and a peasant woman married to a carpenter, Jesus was brought up in Nazareth as a carpenter, but left his home
town and, after unknown adventures, arrived in Egypt where he became expert in magic and was tattooed with magical symbols or spells.
Returning to Galilee he made himself famous by his magical feats, miracles he did by his control of demons. He thereby persuaded the masses that he
was the Jewish Messiah and/or the son of a god. Although he pretended to follow the Jewish customs, he formed a small circle of intimate disciples
whom he taught to despise the Jewish Law and to practice magic. These he bound together and to himself by ties of “love,” (Smith, JtM. CH
4, P. 67).
Incidentally, Smith was not the only academic to have believed that Jesus, in part, became famous for his ability as a Charismatic Exorcist
that he had learned the trade in Egypt. Géza Vermes
, who is considered to be the greatest
living Jesus schiolar of his time, and is an authority on The Dead Sea Scrolls
, also believed that Jesus was part of a rash of exorcists of all
sorts, that were plying their services in the region at the time.
The primary source that Morton Smith uses to support his tattooed Jesus argument, is a passage from the Talmud that tells the story of the arrest of a
distinguished rabbi named Eliezer which, according to Smith's research, occurred in 70-100 C.E.. Smith points the date out as being important, because
he says that Eliezer would have likely been a close contemporary of the crucifixion.
Jesus in the Talmud
is known as, Ben Stada
, and it is a conversation between the
accused rabbi Eliezar, and the judges reviewing his case that yields Smith's source.
The rabbi Eliezer questions whether or not “one who cuts letters on his flesh during the sabbath is guilty of violating the law prohibiting labor on
that day” (Smith, JtM
. CH 4, P.47). Eliezer, as Smith describes it, proceeds further to ask: “Did not Ben Stada
with him from Egypt in a cut that was on his skin?”.
Smith emphasizes that the story holds water because the tale is not part of polemic
, as he says
P.150), but, “is cited as a known and minor fact, in discussion of a legal question”. And Smith goes further with the quote from
the Talmud by adding that the judges responded to Eliezar by saying, “He (ed. Jesus) was a madman, and you cannot base laws upon the actions of
madmen”. Smith uses this part of the Talmudic quote to point out that the other rabbis to which Eliezar spoke knew exactly who Eliezar meant: Jesus
As an authority on ancient history, Smith went on to state that Jesus being covered in tattoos of magical incantations would be very common, in terms
of the era during which the Passion took place. Smith states (Smith.JtM
P. 48) that the tattooing of magical emblems and words on the body was
a common practice and that the incantations and directions for their use could be found in the relevant 'magical papyri' of the time. I can only
assume that he must have meant the time of the later Ptlomies and Cleopatra.
Smith also used Galatians 6:17 to support his argument that Paul also bore the same tattoos as Jesus did...
“Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus”
And Smith's book continues with increasingly outrageous claims. But the tattoo thing has always stuck with me, and I thought I would bring it to
Wadda ya think, ATS?
Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?
. Morton Smith. 1978. Harper and
edit on 13-3-2013 by Bybyots because: .